Faith, Gratitude, Prayer

Welfare Check

welfare check

“Why can’t You just give me this so I don’t have to ask anymore?”

I know.  It sounds like a pretty spiritually immature thing to pray.  But to be honest, I was weary of taking this ongoing problem to the Lord every time it reared its ugly head.  Why couldn’t He just fix it permanently so I didn’t have to deal with it anymore?

Because I don’t like dealing with problems.  They make me uncomfortable.  I don’t like being uncomfortable.  I’d rather God would just make the problems go away and then everything would be blue skies and rainbows for me all the time.  Just the way I like it.

Even the most liberal Liberal has heard a story or two about the welfare system that made him raise an eyebrow.  As a radical, right-wing, uptight, Bible-thumping, evangelical Conservative, I’ll admit I’ve groused about the problems with the system a time or two.  I think one of the things that tends to bother most people about some of the stories we hear is the sense of entitlement a few (certainly not all) welfare recipients can develop.  It’s as though they are owed a nice lifestyle without having to lift a finger.  They take what they receive for granted, and whatever they are given is never enough.  They always want more.  Nicer.  Better.  No gratitude, just gimme.

That hits uncomfortably close to home.

You see, I’m living in God’s welfare system.

When was the last time I had to ask God for air to breathe?  Or to make my heart beat?  Or for clean water to drink, bathe, and do laundry in?  Or food for my table?

When was the last time I even thought about the fact that I can think clearly enough to thank Him that I don’t have a psychiatric disorder or a brain injury?  How often do I get down on my knees and praise God that I can get back up again?  I can walk.  I can talk.  I can see.  I can hear.

God has blessed my family with six beautiful, healthy children, four of whom I was able to conceive, carry, and bear, relatively complication free.

I have a wonderful, Godly husband and great father to my children who isn’t a drug addict or a gambling addict, or an alcoholic, or a workaholic, or unfaithful or abusive to me.  We live in a nice house, on a nice street, in a nice safe neighborhood.

God has blessed me with an extended family as well as a church family who both love me in spite of my numerous faults.  He’s even given me the humbling honor of being able to serve Him in ministry and as an author.

But I always want more.  Nicer.  Better.  No gratitude, just gimme.

Paul said in II Corinthians 12:7-9 that God gave him a thorn in the flesh to keep him from exalting himself.  Frequently our focus in that passage is on speculating as to what, exactly, the “thorn” was.  We fail to notice in the next verse that that thorn kept Paul coming back to the Lord, crying out to Him again and again.  And that’s right where Paul needed to be.

Sometimes that’s one of the purposes of our problems.  God has blessed us with so many things we can forget we need Him.  Until there’s a problem.  And that problem can drive us back to crying out to Him in dependence in a way that no blessing ever could.

So maybe it’s time for a little welfare check:

1. Have you thanked God lately–really thanked Him–for all the blessings we tend to take for granted– food, clothing, freedom, a vehicle, etc.?  Do you live as though God owes you these things?

2. In what ways do problems tend to drive you towards, or away from, God?

3. What does your prayer life look like when everything is going well in your life?  When problems arise?  How can you apply Philippians 4:6 in your prayer life?

Entertainment, Marriage, Movies

“No Greater Love”– Movie Review

I stumbled across this movie at my local library a few days ago, and, boy am I glad I did.

Jeff and Heather were the “lucky ones”.  Best friends from childhood, high school sweethearts, and married by 22, they were inseperable soul mates.

After the birth of her first and only child, Heather Baker (Danielle Bisutti) fell into a deep depression.  Hopelessly lost, she did the unthinkable– she abandoned her husband and her infant son –and vanished.  Jeff Baker (Anthony Tyler Quinn) was forced to raise their son Ethan as a single father.

Ten years after his wife’s disapperance, Jeff is finally ready to move on and is on the verge of marrying his new girlfriend.  His world, however, is dramatically rocked when Heather shockingly reappears in the most unusual place.
(From the “No Greater Love” web site.)

If you liked the movie Fireproof, you’ll almost certainly like No Greater Love.  The acting is much better, and so is the production quality.  Of course, that’s to be expected when a movie is made by a professional studio hiring professional actors rather than by a church using mostly church members as actors.  (That’s certainly not a dig at Sherwood Baptist Church.  They did a fantastic and admirable job with both Fireproof and Facing the Giants –both of which you should see, if you haven’t already –it’s just that professional studios and production companies have the resources and budget to put together a more polished product.)

The storyline of No Greater Love is unique and endearing, but believable.  The only thing I found to be a bit of a stretch was, well, how do I say this without giving too much away?  Let’s just put it like this: It can take a long time and a lot of difficult, painful emotional work for the most Godly among Christians to forgive someone who has wounded them unfathomably.  Generally speaking, one would expect that, for a similarly wounded unsaved person, forgiveness would probably come much more slowly and with even greater difficulty.  But I suppose there are exceptions to the rule.

Theologically, this movie is right on target.  Director, Brad Silverman, says in his commentary on the movie that his goal was to be as theologically correct as possible, and I think he nailed it.  To be honest, one of the reasons I picked up this movie was to see if there were any false doctrine or theology in it, so I was on the lookout for Biblical error.  None to be found as far as I could tell.

Does No Greater Love overtly share the Gospel, spelling it out step by step?  No.  That’s your job and mine, not the job of a movie.  I think, primarily, this is an entertaining movie which reinforces Biblical truth that Christian viewers (should) already know.  But it would also be a great movie to share with unsaved friends as a conversation starter for sharing the Gospel in detail.

For more information on No Greater Love, visit the web site and “like” the Facebook page.

No Greater Love is available for purchase at:
Lionsgate Studios

Church, Faith, Salvation


Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?

2 Corinthians 13:5

Remember the story of the ugly duckling?  Somehow a swan’s egg finds its way to a duck’s nest and hatches right along with all the other ducklings.  The swan chick is similar in appearance to the ducklings, but it quickly becomes obvious to all that there’s something different about him.  The swan chick is convinced that he is a duck.  He tries to walk like a duck, quack like a duck– but it doesn’t work.  He can’t figure out what’s wrong with him.

The problem is, the swan chick wasn’t, in fact, a duck.  He might have lived with a duck family.  He might have even learned how to imitate the sounds, habits, and mannerisms of ducks, but sometimes, even though it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck– it isn’t a duck.

Sadly, we have the very same scenario taking place in our churches.  There are swans among us who think they are ducks.  They walk like ducks, quack like ducks, sometimes we’ve even told them they are ducks.  Unlike the duck siblings in the story of the ugly duckling, we don’t, as a rule, pick at them and tease them mercilessly.  We love them, accept them, and assume they are Believers.  Some swans look and sound an awful lot like ducks.

But the fact of the matter is, many– maybe even most –of the people you sit next to in church on Sunday morning are not Believers.  They have never been genuinely converted to Christ and become new creatures.  Some of them know this consciously about themselves and are just trying to fake their way through because church attendance looks good on a resume or in the eyes of their family and friends.  But there are untold thousands who have been deceived into thinking they are saved when, in fact, they are not.  Could you be one of them?

Most of us grew up during a time when there was great pressure on churches to “get the decision” and up their baptism numbers.  Somehow, this is what evangelism was boiled down to.  The pressure started with the higher ups in the denomination and was passed down to individual pastors, who, in turn, passed the pressure on to their church members.  Frankly, this dynamic hasn’t waned much and is still going strong today.

 As a result, the Gospel presentation Jesus preached– we must repent (Luke 5:32), deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily (Luke 9:23), forsake all else (Luke 14:26), even lose our lives for the Gospel (Mark 8:35) –got watered down and redesigned into the easy believism of, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” and, “Don’t you want to go to heaven when you die?”  Let’s face it, in this culture, dying to self and turning your back on everything that’s comfortable and convenient isn’t an easy sell.

(And if you’ve never heard the truth of the Gospel– that you are guilty of breaking God’s laws, and that God will punish your lawbreaking with an eternity in hell unless you turn away from your sin and place your faith in the fact that Jesus’ death on the cross satisfied God’s wrath against you –please take a few minutes to watch the little video in the sidebar, and learn how you can be saved.)

Folks, I don’t care what Rob Bell or any of the other wolves in shepherd’s clothing tell you, Jesus himself said that “the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

So how can you tell whether you’ve found that narrow way that leads to life, or if you’re just one of the many who has been deceived?  Don’t bet your salvation on church attendance or service, your own personal “goodness” or even the fact that you recited a “sinner’s prayer” and someone told you that if you “really meant it in your heart,” you were saved.  And certainly, don’t wait until you stand before Jesus when you die to find out (Matthew 7:21-23).

Test yourself.  Examine yourself.  The proof that you’re saved is not simply that you once said a prayer and invited Jesus into your heart.  The proof is in the fruit of your life, right now– today.  Jesus said,

You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.

Matthew 7:16-17

What does the fruit of a genuine Believer look like?  The MacArthur Study Bible1 has a great tool you can use for examining yourself.  Find a quiet time and place with no distractions, and prayerfully and honestly go over this list with the Lord.  Don’t trust your own opinion of your fruit, ask God to reveal to you what He thinks.

I. Evidences that neither prove nor disprove one’s faith:

a. Visible morality: Matt. 19:16-21, 23:27
b. Intellectual knowledge: Romans 1:21, 2:17ff
c. Religious involvement: Matt. 25:1-10
d. Active Ministry : Matt. 7:21-23
e. Conviction of sin: Acts 24:25
f. Assurance: Matt. 23
g. Time of decision: Luke 8:13-14

II. The fruit /proofs of authentic / true Christianity

a. Love for God: Psalm 42:1ff; 73:25; Luke 10:27; Romans 8:7
b. Repentance from sin: Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; Romans 7:14ff; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 John 1:8-10
c. Genuine Humility: Psalm 51:17; Matthew 5:1-12; James 4:6, 9ff.
d. Devotion to God’s Glory: Psalm 105:3; 115:1; Isaiah 43:7, 48:10ff.; Jeremiah 9:23, 24; 1 Corinthians 10:31
e. Continual Prayer: Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18ff.; Philippians 4:6ff.; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; James 5:16-18
f. Selfless Love: 1 John 2:9ff, 3:14; 4:7ff.
g. Separation from the world: 1 Corinthians 2:12; James 4:4ff.; 1 John 2:15-17, 5:5
h. Spiritual Growth: Luke 8:15; John 15:1-6; Ephesians 4:12-16
i. Obedient Living: Matthew 7:21; John 15:14ff.; Romans 16:26; 1 Peter 1:2, 22; 1 John 2:3-5

If list I is true of a person and list II is false or non-evident, then there could be cause to question the validity of one’s profession of faith. If list II is true of a person, then list I will be true as well.

Are you really saved?  Are you sure?  This test isn’t graded on a curve.

1From: MacArthur Study Bible Index Notes, 1997.

Additional Resources

What Must I Do to Be Saved?

Am I Really Saved?: A First John Check Up

Searching for a new church?



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